Hopefully we remember many of the important “firsts” in our lives; first date, first hole in one, etc. The most memorable golf moment for me was beating my pops on the course for the first time, and it wasn’t easy. We only played 9 holes and I had to eagle the 9th hole at Mountain View G.C. to beat him, it was one of my first rounds in the 30’s and my first eagle. I put all my eggs in one basket and I’m pretty sure my dad was more proud of me than I was happy.
As a coach experiencing my athlete’s “firsts” might be more memorable for me than it is for them, many times I think it is. When I reflect back on the past year I remember the first box jump from one of our young athletes, my daughter Mira’s first 60 yard drive and seeing an athlete figure something out on their own without my prompting, are very memorable for me. It is why I love coaching, to see our young athletes perform or complete something they were unable to do the day before.
Yesterday I had a great opportunity to introduce 6 athletes to the golf course, which is one of the best moments I have as a golf coach. Their parents have a variety of expectations; score well, hit good shots, behave, etc. I respect each of those expectations and they are realistic but I have a different goal for each of them, HAVE FUN! Before the round I try to make sure our parents know that is my goal, that is why we play golf!
Here are a couple of pictures from the course yesterday.
Most of the guys are 6 or 7 years old so we had to take a couple of breaks and we discussed what to do on the course and how everyone liked the golf course. It’s always great to hear their responses; it’s hilly, I need a snack, let’s hit a ball in the water. We are always on our toes, which makes it fun and exciting for me!
I try to leave all of our young athletes with a couple of messages.
- Remember our golf etiquette and congratulate other players on their good shots
- When a shot doesn’t work out as we planned, how do we recover and prepare for our next shot
I’d like to think everyone will remember those concepts, particularly #1. It was great to see the athletes hit good shots and the other guys congratulated them without being prompted. That tells me that our coaching team is doing a good job imparting the skills to be good golfers but more importantly to be good individuals. Golf is just the medium for us to influence our young athletes to be good people.
Yes……Golf Changes Lives!
Academy testing and new hats
The last month has been very busy with our Academy classes and numerous young athletes. We have implemented a new testing system which gives us a very unbiased system to evaluate our young athletes. The testing system is broken down into the skills required to be a competent golfer.
- Irons (7 iron)
- Fairway woods
- On Course play
The great aspect of our new testing system is that it allows us to objectively gauge our players and highlight strengths and weaknesses. It also gives us the chance to track progress over a longer period of time.
Each aspect of the testing system consists of a game. The chipping test is one of my favorites and really highlights our player’s ability to hit a quality chip shot at a variety of targets, our players get to play a game of baseball.
The goal is to move around the bases and score as many runs as they can. Home plate is 20 ft. away, 1st and 3rd are both 30 ft. away and 2nd base is 40 ft. away. To move to 1st base players must hit a ball within a 4 ft. radius of the target, 2nd is a 5 ft. radius and home is a 3 ft. radius. It sounds simple but this really allows us to evaluate different shots at different lengths. It’s also fun for the kids, which is my primary goal with every player, MAKE IT FUN! We play lots of games, I use lots of color and I try to make sure I have bright green golf balls to match my pants (as you can see in the above picture).
Our young players love to earn a new hat and our new evaluation system allows us to give players a chance to show their skills by hitting great shots and having fun at the same time.
We have nearly 60 young athletes in our program. Their improvement and enjoyment is my primary focus. We have 3 goals in our program;
- Ensure golf is FUN
- Improve golf specific skills
- Improve athletic abilities
Our players have shown great improvement over the past few months and we are very excited for the future in golf.
Yes…..golf changes lives!
Why chase a little ball????
I’m often asked, “Why do you love golf so much?”
I really enjoy playing golf, particularly when things come together and I hit a few good shots in a row or make a nice putt. But that isn’t my motivation behind playing and teaching golf, it’s everything else that goes along with golf. My motivations include spending time with my family and friends, being outside, putting down my cell phone, testing myself by trying tough shots, not watching tv, having fun and LAUGHING!
I look back at my most enjoyable moments in golf and always remember those moments that I laugh and have fun. In our Academy Classes this week (click here) we have been discussing expectations; the expectations of our athletes for themselves, of the coaches, of the class and our expectations of them. The overwhelming response was they expect golf class to be FUN! I love it, we have done our job to promote golf as a FUN thing to do.
Here are a few of my favorite golf memories;
- 9 holes with my dad, brother and grandfather (my dream foursome). It only happened once but I will never forget it.
- Getting beat by my best friend shooting his career round
- Beating my dad for the first time
- Giving my daughter her first golf lesson
- Trying to give my wife a lesson and breaking a window…….my bad (she can find a new coach, I’m not the right fit!)
- Watching my son love grabbing a club and hit anything he can
- Playing Wasatch State Park Golf Course in the fall, just do it…..
- Late night putting contests using the headlights of our cars for light
- Hearing about going to the golf course with mom, dad, grandpa, friends by my students. Especially for the first time……this is what golf is all about!
The game means so much more than scoring low and playing well. We can test ourselves, spend quality time with people, smell fresh cut grass and experience life. Too many of us spend to much time on our cell phones, working and watching tv. Golf gives us a great opportunity to interact with those we care about and get to know people. A friend told me that the best way to get to know someone is to play golf and spend 5 hours with them, it is so true.
I’ve added a few pictures of some of my favorite golf moments.
I was “forced” to hit the tennis ball off the first tee. Luckily Devin killed his drive so we were good!
Giving my daughter (Mira, with the pink tutu) one of her first golf lessons.
After golf can be just as good as during golf. Many haven’t seen my dad like this but he has his moments…..
Taking Mira to her first golf tournament. She had no idea what was going on but walked 4 holes with me and really liked the “girl in pink!”
Gotta start with the putts you can make. Mira is teaching Sam how to putt….how cool is that!
Possibly my favorite golf picture I have. My son Sam couldn’t be happier making a putt.
To sum all of this up, each of us have to know why we play golf. Why we chase a little golf ball around and why we spend 5 hours on finely manicured grass fields. The majority of us do this to have FUN, not to shoot our career low round. It’s nice to play well but please remember why we play golf – It’s the greatest sport to get to know yourself, your family, your friends, and spend quality time with those you care about.
Remind yourself the next time you hit a poor shot, JUST LAUGH, you are out having FUN!
Games, games, games
Here is one of my favorite games and the multiple skills we can teach while having fun – TIC, TAC, TOE!
A simple game of Tic, Tac, Toe on the putting green is one of the best teaching settings I have ever used. Every young athlete absolutely loves playing this simple game and we can use this to teach a variety of different skills at the same time.
When one team hits a putt in a square they take control of that square. Like you would expect three squares in a row wins the game. The one caveat is that if they make a putt in the hole of the middle square that team can take control of any square they want.
One of the challenges with our younger golfers is simply, making putts. A 5 or 6 year old can have challenges making a 10 foot putt and can become frustrated very quickly. My younger athletes love this game because it’s something they can accomplish because we change the size of the target. Instead of a 4 1/4 inch hole they now have a 18″x18″ target or larger. They can decide which square they putt to instead of always having to putt to a specific hole or target.
We can also bring multiple ages of athletes together, the younger athletes (4-7 yrs old) can team up with older athletes (8-13 yrs old).
The younger athletes love partnering up with the older athletes while the older athletes can take give a bit of guidance and show off their skills. Golf is an individual sport and encouraging interaction between athletes can be challenging. The strategy and excitement that a team game creates makes golf much more enjoyable and the kids love it!
Here are some of the concepts that we teach while playing Tic, Tac, Toe:
- Golf skills – we stick to one specific skill each week. During December we focused on Posture and ensuring each FUNdamental athlete (4-7 yrs old) was able to hang their arms down and hinge from the hips. As our athletes progress and learn new skills the goals of each theme become more refined and catered to each athlete.
- Etiquette – to me this is the most important overall concept I can impart on any of our young athletes. We discuss the concept of sportsmanship and what golf “manners” really mean. When a 5 yr old competes, he/she wants to win, but they don’t generally grasp the difference between personal success and the opponents failure. Young athletes cheer when they or their teammates make a putt and/or when the other team misses a putt. It is not acceptable to cheer when someone else misses a putt and I only stop class for 2 situations; injury / injury prevention and to discuss etiquette opportunities.
- Strategy – the negotiation and discussion involved in deciding where to putt the ball is priceless. I’ve really enjoyed listening to the back and forth while trying to be aggressive and take a square or be more defensive and block the other team. 4 and 5 year olds have few opportunities to justify their position and convince their teammates.
- Pressure – one shot to block the other team and win the game. How often does a 5 year old have multiple people counting on them to perform? To create a pressure situation for a young athlete in a comfortable atmosphere is unique and something I love to see. It is awesome to see them succeed and have their entire team cheer for them.
All of this from a simple game of Tic, Tac, Toe!
Playing fun and challenging games is something every young athlete enjoys. I am constantly striving to develop new games which allow our young athletes to exhibit new golf skills, learn more about themselves and put themselves in new situations. GAMES RULE!
Next time you go for a practice session with your young athlete play a game. You don’t need the tape or anything elaborate, unless you want to of course!
What games do you like that are easy and fun for your young athlete?
The Academy at Del Mar Golf Center
After a significant absence, I’m back and will make this blog an important part of communicating with parents and coaches. Over the past two years we have built an outdoor gym, brought in awesome new coaches, launched our new junior program, and I’ve started teaching a bunch of great kids.
I’ve always enjoyed working with kids, but the addition of Milo Bryant (one of the awesome coaches), and incorporating fitness development into our golf training has been the big catalyst for me. In my opinion just teaching golf skills to young athletes (4-8 year olds) and engaging them each class can be very challenging. The addition of Coach Milo and incorporating a Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) model has been exciting and very beneficial for the progression of our young athletes.
I’ve seen the results with our players when we focus on developing core athletic skills first and then layering golf specific skills. A great example is the picture above; the player exhibits great weight transfer, lower body separation, and rotational speed. Golf skills don’t have to be taught just by swinging a golf club.
Here are a few of the highlights and “firsts” I’ve seen from our players this year;
- 10 of our under 7 players have gone to the golf course with dad, mom or grandparents for the first time – AWESOME!!!
- First two foot box jump after a young athlete struggled for months (this might not sound like much but it was a major achievement for the young athlete)
- First 100 yard shot for a 5 year old
- 5 consecutive SNAG shots
- Awesome battles of Tic-Tac-Toe
- The chance to have my daughter Mira participate in our program
Involving Mira in our program and seeing her progress is very special to me. She loves coming to golf class and “playing” each week. Her athleticism has increased significantly and for a 5 year old she displays some nice fundamentals. I will continue to show her successes and challenges as I continue this blog.
We now have 4 classes each week, will be expanding to a new day for our SMASH (8-13 yr olds) and have waiting lists for 3 classes. Our program and philosophy is built on developing long term relationships with the players and their families. I can’t describe how excited I am when our players go to the golf course with their dad, mom, grandpa, etc.
The Academy is based on three primary goals;
- Ensure each athlete enjoys the game of golf and has FUN
- Develop golf skills to develop and become proficient golfers
- Incorporate physical training and develop athletes
To evaluate, monitor and develop each of our players’ abilities we use a hat system much like martial arts, I will go into this more in future posts. Test days are big days and we treat them like our “majors.”
Most of our players have never played golf before starting our program; I look forward to going to the golf course with each of them.
Tour players make putting look so easy
My favorite tournament of the year is here, the Masters! I love the theme song, the par 3 contest, the history and the dramas that always occurs during the Masters. I’ve never visited Augusta National Golf Club but hope to do so very soon to see the golf course in person. Everyone I have spoken with always talks about the elevation changes and the significant slope on each of the greens. Putting well is a key to playing quality golf, winning on the PGA Tour and navigating Augusta National.
During a typical round of golf approximately half of a players shots will occur on the green and we do our best to reinforce the focus on putting ability. Most juniors we work with prefer to spend their time hitting drivers so we focus on making putting fun and entertaining. Last week our juniors spent the afternoon working on their putting skills. I only know a few people who can spend a great deal of time on the putting green and I have a tremendous respect for them, I am not one of those people. For me to actually practice my putting I need a few games and drills.
I’ve changed my views on putting over the last couple of years. In the past I focused more on the mechanics of the putting stroke, ensuring my putter “matched” my stroke, and ensuring I maintained the “triangle”. The “triangle” is created between my shoulders and hands and to maintain it during the stroke minimum wrist action should occur. I have found most golfers won’t really change their putting stroke or mechanics, frankly I was one of them. I’ve got to stick with my basic stroke but spend time on the skills to make my stroke more efficient and effective.
I’ve found it is important to have a few fundamentals in a putting stroke which include; acceleration OR constant swing speed through the stroke, limited wrist action and a consistent setup. On the practice green mechanics are important but many times we (myself included) try to change mechanics while on the course. Everyone has differences in their setup, stroke and pre-shot routine but the key is consistency. As long as you do it every time, you know what to expect.
To consistently make putts on the course a player must have a few skills. In my opinion the top three skills necessary to be a good putter are;
- Ability to read a green correctly
- Start the ball on the intended line
- Distance control
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll introduce a few drills to help hone these skills which will help a player lower scores and become a better putter.
I always have to remind myself that drills are just that…drills. They must be fun (or I won’t work on them), be measureable and they must be focused on a specific skill. In the end it’s imperative to translate these skills out to the course since our main goal is to MAKE MORE PUTTS!
The best resource I have found for making more putts was Dave Stockton’s book Unconscious Putting. This book is an outstanding resource and promotes making a putt while forgetting mechanics out on the course. Check out more of what the Stockton family has to offer here: http://www.stocktongolf.com. I’ve had the opportunity to attend a seminar by the Stockton family and learn about their philosophy in person.
Tour players do make it look so easy and make a tremendous amount of putts. They have honed the necessary skills to make putts by using a variety of drills. Drills are important as long as they help us engrain the skills which will help us make more putts. Once we get to the golf course we must focus on one thing, getting the ball into the hole.
The other day Christopher and I had a group of 6th and 7th graders and we spent a very quick hour and a half on chipping skills. Most of the kids have played a bit but are all still learning the basics of the game. I’m working on structuring my instruction a bit differently and was very happy with the results and response from the kids.
In my opinion it takes three basic skills to chip the ball well:
- Controlling trajectory
- Landing near your intended spot
- Controlling distance
Within each of those skills there are a variety of options and variations that will affect the final outcome. Instead of spending 15+ minutes go over stance, ball position, swing motion and club selection we set up 5 stations that focused on one of the three skills. We introduced each station, paired the kids up and let them “discover”. While they worked the stations, competing along the way of course, Christopher and I introduced stance, ball position and swing motion.
Our 5 stations consisted of:
- String 18 inches above the ground and had to hit chip shots over the string
- String 18 inches above the ground and had to hit chip shots below the string
- 25 inch diameter circle and had to land chip shots inside the circle
- Two parallel strings approximately 3 feet apart from each other and 18 feet from the starting point. Had to keep as many balls between the circles
- 2 holes at different distances which they hit 2 shots at each hole
It was great to see the kids all engaged and focused on the various stations. We discussed each of the skills as they moved between stations and were able to address individual golfer’s strengths and weaknesses. All of the kids showed improvement and were able to keep a ball low, hit a ball high, understood distance control and the importance of landing in the intended spot.
Breaking down the chip shot and making it fun really made the session beneficial for the golfers. They changed clubs during the stations and grasped the concept of controlling trajectory with the strings. The easiest station was hitting shots under the string, the hardest was landing shots in the circle. To make it better they had to discover and figure out how to accomplish each of the skills. It was great to see all of the realize the importance of getting the ball on the ground as quickly as possible. As the man Peter Scott once said “Putt it if you can, chip it if you can’t, wedge it if you must.”
How lucky am I ?
Golf has always been family focused for me. My dad taught me to play (how cool is that), my most memorable round was with my pops, brother and grandpa and now I get to be involved with golf for a living. I’ve never played for a living which is a totally different beast, something which I have a ton of respect for. Having to make a five footer to pay rent would destroy me. The most nerve racking putts have been to beat Mark Fernando for a few bucks, take a new golf shirt from Mike Gore or force Chris Lesson to re-work his entire set and replace his irons.
Today was awesome, I had a chance to work with our Marines from Operation Game On and Wounded Warrior Battalion West. Tuesdays are my favorite day of the week, while it’s my Monday I really enjoy working with our returned Marines along with the big fella, Chris Lesson.
Check this out, always makes me take a few minutes and reflect on the freedoms we have.
On top of the boys this morning I was able to work with some juniors from Santa Fe Christian Middle School. I remember my after school golf classes and the first “pro” I worked with. Too bad I don’t have a golf car to take the kids out on, always my top golf camp memory.
In trying to bring this full circle I just thank all of those who have played golf with me. As I sit here with my 5 week old son Sam I just hope I have the chance to introduce him to the game, along with his sisters. Golf is so much more than a game to me; it’s a great opportunity to build character, test yourself, achieve success, feel failure, overcome adversity and most of all have fun.
Not a Spring Chicken Anymore
It seems my New Year’s Resolutions were a little too much for my aging “dad” self to keep up. I was doing great for about 3 weeks until a couple of injuries kicked up and made life a little tough.
A bone spur in my wrist and a lingering shoulder injury have made both working out and practicing much more challenging. I’m now in a wrist brace with potential surgery on the horizon. I’ve decided surgery is the very last option, on my lead wrist at that. A visit to the PT in the morning, Neil McKenna at Elevate Function (http://elevatefunction.com), should help me along my path.
My injuries have really made me rethink my views on golf and being physically active. It’s more important than ever to understand the correct mechanics, sequence and physical limitations required in the golf swing. The folks over at the Titleist Performance Institute (http://www.mytpi.com) opened me up to what our body is made to do and what it is supposed to do. I’ve compared old video of my golf swing to what I am trying to accomplish now and have found the issue……my grip.
I’ve adjusted my grip just a bit a couple of years ago and in my attempt to consistently grip the club the same every shot I’ve gone too far in one direction. The club is now too far in my fingers (just be a few millimeters mind you) which has resulted in a strong grip that my swing isn’t made for. I cup the club too early in my backswing and am unable to maintain a flat wrist during the downswing.
A slightly strong grip has led to an impact position with a slightly cupped wrist and very bad things happen. Bad things happen to my wrist, my ball flight and more importantly to my ego.
I need to always review my fundamentals, something my Director of Instruction preaches every day. Even when I think I’m in the correct positions…..I often times am not. It really is amazing how we can tweak very small things with our swing; grip, stance, posture or alignment…just to name a few. My attempt to keep the club head outside of my hands on the backswing has led to a very bad position during my takeaway and the top of the backswing. I’m forced to release the club early which causes my wrist to be in extension at impact, which is not good at all (casting).
My goal is to avoid surgery and improve my golf swing. The new technology our PGA Golf Professionals have is amazing; K-Vest, Flightscope and high speed video just to name a few. Now I’ve got to adjust my motor pattern and change my takeaway, but more importantly I’ve got to change my release. A new grip is one of the most challenging things in golf but since I’d really like to play with my (now) three kids, change is good!
Visit http://www.mytpi.com/improve-my-game/swing-characteristics/casting for more information on “Casting” and the various screens and fixes.
Pro-Am at Torrey Pines
Yesterday brought me a unique opportunity to caddy at the Sycuan Pro-Am at Torrey Pines. The golf course is in fantastic condition and will be a challenge for the PGA tour professionals this week.
I played the North Course 2 years ago on the Monday following the tournament and it was one of the most challenging courses I have ever played. The South Course this week will be a true test. Rough is pushing three inches and I’m sure by the weekend it will be even higher.
The greens were the true challenge, I have never seen greens this firm and fast. On multiple occasions our players hit uphill putts that came back to them and wouldn’t stop neat the hole. Pin positions will dictate the tournament and players who can keep the ball in the fairway and make a few putts will have a chance to win.
Torrey Pines South Course – #3
Our professional, Chesson Hadley, was a nice young man and a great player. It was his first time on the course. Chesson won the 2013 web.com Tour Championship and should have a very good career on the tour. http://www.chessonhadley.com
Great day out on the course and gave me a unique and up close view of a great golf course.